Several years of drought, coupled with skyrocketing food prices had stolen Mulualem's livelihood, forcing him and his family to eat seed that would have been planted, and sell livestock that was his source of income.
He could no longer afford to send his grandchildren to school each day: they were needed at home, to help in whatever way they could to put food on the family's table.
Then, a few years ago, Tegegn got involved with a land rehabilitation program, offered by his government, and assisted by WFP. In a land where rain has many names, depending on the season, the Productivity Safety Net Programme (PSNP) showed him how to harvest it whenever, and wherever, it fell.
Received food for family
While he was learning to collect water in irrigation and livestock ponds, build stone dams to reduce erosion on the highland slopes, and trap runoff topsoil to create fertile growing beds, he also received food for his family.
As he learned to terrace the hillsides, he planted acacia to hold the embankments in place: a versatile deep-rooted shrub that adds nitrogen to the soil, and provides protein-rich leaves that can be cut year after year to feed livestock. Tegegn was given tools and seed to plant a diversity of crops on the terraces: income-generating teff, wheat, peas and chillis, as well as vegetables for his family's table.
'Graduated' from programme
After four years in the programme, Tegegn, and many other farmers in Amhara region have achieved a level of food security that will help both their families and their local economy.
Tegegn's graduation from PSNP is recognition that he is once again food self-reliant. No longer depending on food donations, he is able to grow enough food for his family, and sell some of his crop to buy goats, cows, and the source of much pride, the donkey that will help his grandchildren with their long trek back to school.